Sunday, April 18, 2010

Tasting Notes: Rosemary IPA

I poured the Rosemary IPA from my 12oz. Grolsch bottle to a pint mug.

Deep amber in color, if not dark, with a full 3 fingers of slightly off white head (guess we solved that problem). Cloudy all the way through even when held to the light.

Aroma: The smell of rosemary leaps out of the glass. The addition of the herb to the second fermentation could be cut by 75%. There is a spicy hops smell, but the Herb steals the show. After 10 minutes in the glass the rosemary mellows out, and the head dissipates but laces the glass all the way down.

Taste: Again the main mark is the rosemary. The hops taste is pleasantly bitter, spicy and a bit flowery, and the beer itself has a toasted note. It's hard to discern the other flavors that are being masked by the rosemary. Though the ABV is up around 7.5% it isn't boozy at all.

Mouthfeel: Medium/full bodied and perhaps a bit over carbonated (trying to hard to make up for the last one), but it isn't a really big gripe.

Drinkability: This is not a session-er, the Rosemary makes it a GREAT beer with food. But by itself can be daunting, unless you like rosemary as much as me.

Notes: This was, to say the least, an experimental beer. I had never heard of Rosemary in beer before I set out to make it and I have to say that even though it's a bit overpowering I'm considering this a complete success. Next batch will be spot on. The biscuit malt played exactly the way I imagined with the herb, like a little rosemary cracker. I think I need to add a fining agent or learn how to deal with the solids better, I'd like the beer to be clearer. I think it will hang out in my Fridge for a while though, it's not an everyday kind of beer.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Wheel of Time

I'm reading through the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, good stuff so far, very entertaining and at times mesmerizing. I've just finished up the 3rd book in the series, The Dragon Reborn, and I thought I'd share some thoughts about what I've read so far. Bullet point style. The following contains spoilers from the first 3 instalments in the series, you are warned.

  • Favorite Character thus far: Perrin Aybara - I usually like the hulking character in fantasy stories, dwarfs being the exception, and I always like blacksmithing stuff. He's also the "think first" guy, which I lean to, but, I really started liking his thread when he found his ability to communicate with wolves. The wolfbrother angle has got me hooked, and if he ever smiths a weapon of some sort he'll cement himself as my favorite. He has also drawn an interesting character, Zarine Bashere, into the story. I hope their thread continues to provide what it has so far.
  • Favorite Male Character besides Perrin: Lan Mandragoran - The stone faced and fearless, deadly in a fight and utterly devoted to an oath to protect the Aes Sedai caster Moiraine. I really like these archetypes, sword in hand since childhood, fiercely loyal to a single concrete ideal. He's probably more of a badass than Aragorn, but I'd still prolly lay money on Drizzt Do'Urden in a fight.
  • Favorite Female Character: Elayne Trakand - I'm a sucker for a redhead. In seriousness though this is more a process of elimination for me. Egwene is too whiny, Nynaeve is too headstrong, Min seems to just be caught up in things, and Moiraine is too dedicated to a cause that's too too fluid to predict what she will do. Elayne seems the balance of all that. She may be royal, but it doesn't show, she's vocal at just the right times and says the things I would say. The less developed Zarine is giving her a run for her money, we'll see in the next few books how that goes.
  • Favorite Faction: Warders - Even though I don't necessarily like the Aes Sedai at all times the Warders who protect them are really cool to me. Through all the Aes Sedai scheming and politics the Warders ideals are simple, Protect the one he is bonded to. To these guys there really is no gray. Plus I gotta get me one of those color shifting cloaks.
  • Most Hated Faction: Seanchan - Even before the Whitecloaks and the Shadow itself, I've had the most hate for the Seanchan. I've read some good black mail and betrayal stories, but nothing as treacherous as what Liandrin does with Egwene and the others by delivering them into the collars and leashes of the Seanchan. Besides the whole slavery thing, these folks seem heartless at best, bent on power and control. The higher up you go the worse it gets, utterly self serving and completely devoid of any compassion. Even the forsaken seem to have chosen vileness over the light, but for the Seanchan what they do is right.
  • Faction on Which the Jury is Still Out: Aiel - Fearsome and fearless, as deadly without a weapon as with, and can apparently out run horses. I'd like to see their aversion to swords fleshed out a bit more, and I'm sure it will be, but on the face of it I like their approach to things.
  • Refreshing Lack of Mythical Creatures - I've really like that there aren't any of the standard elves or dwarfs, every major faction is a faction of men. There are fantastic creatures, but they are used sparingly. For me it makes the threat a more real. Orcs are nameless and faceless, but men and women fallen to evil hits home for me. There are the trollocs (every fantasy story needs fodder too), but fallen men are pulling the strings.
  • Balance - Every good fantasy story needs to have a good balance of lore versus action, and I think Jordan does a really good job on this front. The world is expansive to say the least, but it isn't overbearing, and the action sequences come in the right places for me.
  • Pacing - I will say that the pacing can get a bit strange for me, but it's mostly because I've divided the amount of attention I'm willing to give certain characters. If Perrin rides off by himself you can bet I'm reading every word, but when Mat ends up alone, I'm markedly less interested. I'm sure as I go on I'll develop more affinity for each character, but as of now I haven't.
  • Magic System - In the fantasy genre the writer usually either exhaustively explains in detail what it is a magician is doing when he accesses the fabled power, or the writer tells you it's "insert name for magic here" and expects that to be enough. I have seen both work well. In this series so far I've been disappointed with how much I know about the system. I think the problem is that Jordan himself didn't really have an idea of how it worked, and my problem with that is that he let's us in on it as it comes to him, which has left me really confused about what it is those women are doing when they touch Saidar.

So that's my impression thus far, I am pretty engrossed and plan on seeing it through over this year, although at my current pace it won't take that long.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Tasting Notes: Irish Red

I poured my Irish Red from it's 12oz. bottle to a Pint Glass.

Appearance: Very Dark, the only way I know it's red is holding it up to bright light. Less than a finger of tan colored head, which dissipates very quickly, but does lace the glass well on it's way to empty.

Aroma: A distinct fruity aroma, and an herbal mark.

Taste: Light Hopps flavor, followed by malty caramel sweetness, finishes with a roasted bite that goes a bit overboard, far enough to say burned. A slightly too bitter aftertaste from the burned flavor.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, but under carbonated.

Drinkability: Though the finish is bitter the beer is still very drinkable. It' s been really good with food and for cooking though certainly not quaffable .

Notes: It tastes like a red but looks like a brown lest held up to the light, where you can see its red tint. Entirely too dark to fit the style and the head retention is nothing short of failure, though the way it laces a glass is nice. Also disappointed in the markedly burnt taste, otherwise it would be right on.
I believe I have diagnosed the two major issues with the beer and will correct them in future brews. First the burnt taste comes from adding my extract while my brewpot is still on the heat. The syrup falls straight to the bottom and scorches, easily correctable and won't be a problem again. Second the carbonation and head retention problem. I sterilize my bottles in the dishwasher and as we know dish detergents contain surfactants so that water doesn't spot. This chemical works in direct opposition to head formation and retention. So in the future I will run the dishwasher empty to make sure none of the detergent is left behind, then sterilize the bottles.